In my earlier piece, I took a look at the first half of the Bill Of Rights and how the American Civil Liberties Union views them. Now it’s time to take a look at the 6th through the 10th Amendments.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
The rights guaranteed above can be condensed thusly: a speedy, impartial trial; an impartial jury; to know the accusation; to subpoena witnesses; and counsel. This is another one the ACLU is rather fond of. I agree with them on most of their efforts, but again they go way too far. They’ve expanded the right to counsel to “the right to competent counsel.” Again, I agree with them. But now it seems that their definition of “incompetent counsel” is “a lawyer that couldn’t get an acquittal.”
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
The right to trial by jury in civil cases. Pretty simple, too simple for the ACLU to screw up. I’ll give them another pass.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Here’s another one where the ACLU has gone bananas. They have latched on to the “cruel and unusual” and have ridden that horse into the ground. In particular in regards to capital punishment.
The death penalty is clearly Constitutional. The 5th Amendment explicitly refers to “capital crimes” and “deprived of life… without due process of law,” so the Founding Fathers intended for capital punishment to be legal.
The ACLU, in their zeal to make sure no innocent person gets executed by mistake, has fought against nearly every capital case it has found. Then they expanded their efforts on behalf of those who “should not” suffer the ultimate sanction. They have succeeded in limiting executions to being very rare, and only after years and years of lengthy legal battles.
And they’ve used their victories to further their battle against the whole concept of capital punishment. They have used the fact that executions are so uncommon to argue that they violate the “unusual” provisions of the 8th Amendment. It’s rather convenient how they overlook the dependent word “and,” inextricably linking “unusual” with “cruel,” but as has been shown, they’re rather good at overlooking inconvenient words and phrases in the Constitution before (see John Kalb’s expose’ of their rewriting of the First Amendment on their own web site.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The “unenumerated powers” amendment. The Constitution states that the above list of rights is not to be construed as the only rights of the people. This has generally been a good thing, but again the ACLU has taken it and stretched it beyond all recognition. This is where the whole concept of new, nebulous “rights,” such as the right to “privacy” come from. It’s a gray area at best, and I personally give the ACLU about a 50/50 chance on any given issue of being either right or simply projecting their ideology into the Constitution.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
This one is the favorite of many Conservatives, and the bane of many liberals. It says that the Federal Government only has those powers spelled out in the Constitution, and no more. Anything else is the rights of the States or the People (and here is a valid argument for the “collective right” case that the ACLU espouses for the 2nd Amendment). The ACLU often argues that this doesn’t apply in most of its cases; it says that the government has such powers of necessity; otherwise, certain rights and duties are meaningless without the government being able to enforce them. But again, this is a huge stretch, and usually serves to mask the flimsiness of the asserted “rights.”
Well, that’s enough for now, ACLU. I’ve spent way too much of my holiday working on your behalf — it’s time for me to actually enjoy the spirit of the day. I hope you appreciate the effort I put into this, your gift.